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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Should you use violence to defend yourself

"Should you use violence to defend yourself?" is easy to ask, but impossible to answer correctly. To start with, the terminology is wrong. The term should be 'force,' not 'violence.' The difference between violence and force is kind of like the difference between racing and driving. While many of the components are the same, the application is radically different. But until you understand the differences you are going to mistakenly lump them together as so many people do. Strictly speaking one never uses violence to defend oneself. That's an oxymoron. Violence is the tool of the aggressor, not of the defender. As such the terms 'violence' and 'defend' cancel each other out, making it a meaningless question. This might sound like something a lawyer would try, but -- as you will see -- the distinction between force and violence is critical. While violence is almost always in the wrong. This not always the case with force. In and of itself, force is neutral. It is how you apply it that determines if it is violence or not. Force can be a necessary and valuable tool -- especially against violence.
This is why it is important to understand the difference in terminology. If your understanding of the terminology is incorrect, then by extension your assumptions about the subject will also be wrong. And when your assumptions and understanding are incorrect, then so too will be your actions. When misapplied and amplified, force becomes violence.
What are the circumstances of the situation? What is the level of threat? Where do you need to stop using force before it crosses over into violence? These are just a few of the issues that that simplistic question lumps into one poorly defined mess. Each of the issues must be individually assessed and its influence on others considered.

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